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GM strike enters its second week. There’s no clear end in sight

Workers picket outside a General Motors facility
Workers picket outside a General Motors facility in Langhorne, Pa., on Monday.
(Matt Rourke / Associated Press)

The strike against General Motors Co. by 49,000 United Auto Workers members entered its second week Monday with progress reported in negotiations but no clear end in sight.

Bargainers met all weekend and returned to talks Monday as the strike entered its eighth day.

A person briefed on the negotiations said they’re haggling about wages and profit sharing, new product for factories that GM wants to close, a faster route to full wages for new hires, and use of temporary workers. The person didn’t want to be identified because details of the bargaining are confidential.

Workers walked off the job Sept. 16, paralyzing production at about 30 manufacturing sites in nine states.

United Auto Workers
Members of the United Auto Workers (UAW) and supporters picket outside of General Motors Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly in Detroit.
(Jeff Kowalsky/AFP/Getty Images)
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Already the strike has forced GM to shut two Canadian factories that make engines, older-model pickup trucks and two car models. If the strike drags on much longer, GM likely will have to close more factories in Mexico and Canada because engines, transmissions and other components are built in the United States. Companies that supply parts to GM also will have to start cutting production.

Shoppers this week will start to see fewer trucks, SUVs and cars on dealer lots. Cox Automotive said that GM had stocked up before the strike with a 77-day supply of vehicles. But before the strike, the supply of larger SUVs such as the Chevrolet Tahoe already was below the industry average 61 days’ worth of vehicles.

Workers also will feel pressure. They got their last GM paycheck last week and will have to start living on $250 per week in strike pay.

GM has racked up more than $30 billion in profits during the last five years, and now unionized workers want a bigger cut. But the company sees a global auto sales decline ahead and wants to lower its labor costs so they’re in line with U.S. plants owned by foreign automakers. The top production worker wage is about $30 per hour, and GM’s total labor costs including benefits are about $63 per hour compared with an average of $50 at factories run by foreign-based automakers mainly in the South.

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Issues snagging the talks include the formula for profit sharing, which the union wants to improve. Currently workers get $1,000 for every $1 billion the company makes before taxes in North America. This year workers got checks for $10,750 each, less than last year’s $11,500.

Wages also are an issue. GM seeks to shift compensation more to lump sums that depend on company earnings. Workers want hourly wage increases that will be there even if the economy goes south.

They’re also bargaining over use of temporary workers and a path to make those workers full time, as well as a faster track for getting newly hired workers to the top UAW wage.

GM has offered products in two of four locations where it wants to close factories. It has proposed an electric pickup truck for the Detroit-Hamtramck plant and a battery factory in the Lordstown, Ohio, area, where it is closing a small-car assembly plant. The factory would be run by a joint venture, and although it would have UAW workers, GM is proposing they work for pay that’s lower than what the company pays at assembly plants.

This is the first national strike by the UAW since 2007, when the union shut down General Motors for two days.

GM’s stock price has fallen more than 4% since the strike began, but it’s still up more than 11% so far this year.


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